Stretching over 2,000 square kilometres in the far corner of mainland Scotland, the North West Highlands Geopark is a striking example of different rock geologies. Starting at 3 billion years old, the Lewisian Gneiss is the oldest rock in Europe. It’s also home to the earliest evidence of life to be found anywhere in Europe.

But the geopark is not just about incredible science. It’s also about beauty. Think white sandy beaches, rocky mountain ridges, atmospheric rock caves, and grass, peatland, moors and forest. Then there’s the wildlife – not just the current seabirds, eagles and sealife, but also the evidence of creatures that once walked this land, hidden deep in caves.

Map of North West Highlands UNESCO Global Geopark
  • Home to 3 billion-year-old rocks.

Discover why the North West Highlands is so special

Where else can you experience two-thirds of the history of the Earth, in a quiet and beautiful but accessible spot of Scotland?

The North West Highlands Geopark is UNESCO recognised because of the unimaginable age of the rocks along the coastline, and the incredible complexity of the landscape. Visit the Moine Thrust Zone to learn more about just one of the many scientific discoveries the landscape has created - stand where geologists finally discovered that continents had collided together, thanks to the presence of old rock above new.

You’ll also find each type of rock produces its own unique and evocative habitat, providing you with a diverse array of scenery to take in, wherever in the geopark you explore.

There's nowhere else on Earth like the North West Highlands. Time runs deep here, our mountains have witnessed three-quarters of Earth's history, come and hear their stories and take time to think about that!”
Laura, North West Highlands Geopark

Explore the local area

With so much landscape to explore, you are spoilt for things to do. But how best to appreciate the geopark? There are a number of driving routes you can follow including the main Rock Route, which takes you to display boards explaining more about the vistas in front of you. There are also six Pebble Routes to follow by car (or bicycle) taking you onto lesser-used roads so you can really appreciate and take in the landscapes slowly.

Sustainable local businesses

These Green Tourism businesses are assessed on everything from energy efficiency to biodiversity and awarded bronze, silver or gold.

We want Scotland's UNESCO Trail to be an opportunity to explore the country in a sustainable and responsible way.

The global geopark is also supported by ambassador partners, who have similar values and goals to further education, recreation, heritage and community development. Check out the north Scotland journey below to see some of these businesses.

How to get here

Due to the secluded location on the north west corner of Scotland, the geopark is best explored using a private vehicle. However, there are lots of options to travel to Inverness using public transport including trains, buses or flights, as well as local buses to Ullapool, Scourie, Kinlochbervie and Durness.

Visit the North West Highlands Geopark travel section for more details on travelling up, and useful information such as available petrol stations.

A cyclist travelling along a road next to Loch Assynt on a beautiful sunny day
Loch Assynt

Experience more UNESCO sites

Make the North West Highlands part of a longer trip - we can help you plan a trip to all of the UNESCO sites in the local area, including Wester Ross.
A woman carrying a walking stick with a backpack looks out over a loch and trees to some hills, from a rocky ledge

UNESCO Sites to Explore in North Scotland

Check out the beautiful UNESCO sites of North Scotland - the Wester Ross Biosphere and the North West Highlands Geopark.

View Journey

Learn more about UNESCO

North West Highlands Geopark is one of two global geoparks in Scotland, and one of 169 across 44 countries in total.

UNESCO’s work with geoparks began in 2001 and sees national geological heritage initiatives contribute to and benefit from their membership of a global network of exchange and cooperation.

Read more about Scotland's UNESCO Trail and watch UNESCO: Explained

Find out more from UNESCO about North West Highlands Geopark

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

Every UNESCO designation tries to include the UN Sustainable Development Goals in their work.


An urgent call for action from a global partnership of countries.

Recognise that ending poverty and other deprivations comes from strategies to:

  • improve health and education
  • reduce inequality
  • encourage economic growth
  • tackle climate change

Check out all the UN Sustainable Development Goals

A shepherd and dogs, following a flock of sheep along a road

North West Highland's Sustainable Development Goals

Here’s how the North West Highlands Geopark is working towards three of the goals.

Goal 3

Good Health & Wellbeing

The geopark is one of the finest outdoor recreational areas in the UK where visitors can enjoy physical exercise and mental rejuvenation in a splendid natural setting.

Goal 8

Decent work & economic growth

Economic disadvantage has undermined the area for decades, which must be addressed to keep the local population in the area. The UNESCO designation is used to educate residents and visitors on the importance of health and wellbeing to address this.

Goal 17

Partnership for the goals

This is achieved by creating and maintaining partnerships across the geopark and wider region, the nation and the world.

Useful links